Saira Shah to Speak at Texas Tech

The Texas Tech Department of English has booked Saira Shah for the 2005 Convocation. If you’re within 300 miles of the United Spirit Arena in Lubbock on August 30, you should be there. If it’s not enough that at the age of 21 Shah crawled around on her belly covering the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan as a freelance journalist, consider the fact that she followed that up by being a mainstay on the scene of nearly every major (read: bloody) conflict since then, including the Balkans, Algiers, Palestine, Congo, Iraq, Columbia, Northern Ireland and Sudan. Shah is the author of The Storyteller’s Daughter, in which she compares the Afghanistan of her father’s time with the modernday one that is wartorn:

His wild black eyes fix themselves upon me. There is no way I can describe the power of another human being concentrating all his force upon you in utter desperation. It feels as though I am looking into my own tormented soul. My eyes veer away. Behind him is a grass bank. It is full of people, sitting, lying, writhing. Everyone has lost a limb, or is clamping a hand over a bleeding wound. The further I raise my eyes, the further I can see — they stretch beyond the boundaries of this garden, this city, this country, this age. In that instant I understand that normally our senses are scattered, divided. At rare moments we catch a glimpse of what is real; we are the same, we are all connected.

Google One Step Closer to Launching Gmail

It seems that Google is getting one step closer to launching Gmail. While surfing this morning, I saw the a link below the search field inviting me to the service (see image). Here’s the word from Google:

Since we launched Gmail in April 2004, we’ve been focused on improving the service, relying on our users to spread the word and invite others to try it out. The response has been great, and now we’re ready for some more Gmail users. …

As we make room for more Gmail users, we want to first extend invitations to Google users. We’re still working to make Gmail better, so for now, we’re just inviting a small number at random. Looks like that’s you! We’re really excited to share Gmail with you and we hope you like it.

I’ve been using Gmail for almost a year now, and it changed that way I use e-mail. If you’re not lucky enough to get an invitation from Google to try Gmail, e-mail. I have plenty of invitations to go around.

Apple to Boost Stock Ram?

AppleInsider is reporting that Apple is planning to make 512mb of RAM the standard on all new computers, beginning at about mid-year:

By mid-year, Apple is likely to include a minimum of 512MB of RAM in each of the Macs it sells, double the amount of standard memory shipping in most of today’s models.

Sources say Apple intends to complete the move by mid-year, around the same time it begins shipping its next-generation operating system, Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger.”

Although Tiger will not require 512MB of RAM, insiders say the boost in memory spec will assure consumers a smoother experience running both Tiger and Apple’s iLife ’05 digital lifestyle software suite. They added that the upgrade is “much needed.”

My take on it? It’s about time Apple make 512 the standard. I’m still surprised the standard Mac-Mini shipped with only 256.

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Apple’s Influence on Free Speech

The internet is booming with discussion regarding Apple’s decision to sue three bloggers who published information pertaining to unreleased products. In case you missed it, here it is within the proverbial nutshell: an Apple employee leaked product information to several bloggers. The information hinted at the design and features of Apple’s then-unreleased Mac-Mini and new line of iPods. The bloggers published the information online, and have since refused to identify the Deepthroat who released said information.

The lawsuit raises questions about freedom of speech issues related to bloggers, who in the past year have exploded on the scene while serving as occasionally successful armchair journalists. Members of the Old World Press are allowed to protect the identities of their sources in most situations, but Apple contends that bloggers are not legitimate members of the press, and are thus not entitled to similar degrees of protection under freedom of speech laws.

Lisa DiCarlo brings up an interesting point about this battle:

This potential threat to first amendment rights and Apple’s crackdown on Web sites that, in general, love the company and its products, do nothing to bolster Apple’s image. In fact, the company’s success of late has yielded accusations of bullying and potentially unlawful business tactics, not to mention complaints that songs purchased from its iTunes music service, the dominant digital music store, don’t work with music players other than its own.

I would have preferred if DiCarlo addressed the issue that the title of her story hints at: Is Apple The New Microsoft? But she didn’t, so I will attempt to.

Apple has had a lot of success recently, first with iPod and iTunes, and now with Mac-Mini and several pretty impressive software packages that have had Apple enthusiasts lining up at the doors of the Apple Store. Apple is working on going mainstream, mainly in baiting PC users who have dabbled with iTunes and iPod enough to think they might like other Apple products. For years, the price of Apple products has kept a lot of users out of the ultra hip and sleek Mac realm, but now with the offering of a pretty decent $499 desktop and cheaper iPods, it seems that Apple may be making a move towards becoming more global.

It is bit ironic that a company that has always attempted (and usually succeeded) in practicing more user-friendly design, marketing and production than Microsoft is now engaging in high-profile swipes at its users. The lawsuit with bloggers is the tip of the iceberg. Apple is now facing litigation claiming that its iTunes music service is only accomodating to iPod music players.

Microsoft officials have typically claimed that its cut-throat business practices were not cut-throat at all, and have implied that such practice was necessary to protect the MS brand and technology. Now that Apple is experiencing record sales, the question will remain if the company will engage in less than admirable practice to protect it’s technology and brand.

I think Apple would be better off maintaining its relationship with core users while continuing to expand its product line in an effort to acquire some of the MS market share. I’ve been sold on several Apple products simply on the basis of blog discussions and amateur product reviews, and I’m not alone. This may not be the best time for Apple to get arrogant and bite the hands that have fed them for so long. The lines of communication between core users are changing rapidly, and Apple is now in a unique position to alter that communcation, for better or worse.

Bloggers who exposed rumors of upcoming products likely did little to hurt sales. The products in question include the iPod Shuffle and Mac-Mini, both of which are still on backorder with the Apple Store. Apple may be attempting only to hunt down the employee who leaked the info more than attempting to influence the free speech/blogger issue, but I hope Steve Jobs and Company don’t inadvertantly influence constitutional law in an effort to prevent leakages about possible upcoming iPod releases.